Anxiety, Cannabis, Panic Disorder

CBD for Anxiety Relief Gone Wrong

I have long since been an advocate for medical cannabis to help cure what ails you. The use of CBD for anxiety relief, for instance. Or, using THC to help alleviate depression.

To learn what cannabis is, and for CBD and THC definitions, click here.

Whether as a substitute for traditional medicine or in addition to it, cannabis helps millions of people around the globe.

Recently, I used CBD for acute anxiety relief, and it went horribly wrong. I’m still trying to figure out what the <bleep> went wrong!

Why I Initially Chose CBD for Anxiety Relief

I started using cannabis to treat mental illness alongside my prescribed medication—an SSRI—several years ago when I entered perimenopause. Increased anxiety is often a symptom of perimenopause. Nobody ever told me that. Mood swings and hot flashes? Sure. But anxiety? No. Not even my doctor.

At the time, my doctor chose to deal with my fluctuating anxiety by changing my prescription altogether. This resulted in a shit-storm of side effects ranging from the dreaded brain zaps to exacerbated tinnitus and elevated blood pressure. I wrote it about here.

I learned that many people were using cannabis for—among other things—relief from symptoms of mental illness. Given I suffer(ed) from anxiety and depression, I decided to give it a try and had great success. Until I didn’t.

The Lead-Up to Reintroducing CBD

In August 2021, after months of having slowly ceased all medications, supplements, and cannabis use—I wanted to do a full-body reset—I had a massive collapse. I don’t use those words lightly. I suffered days and nights filled with wave after wave of panic attacks. For weeks, I was in a perpetual fight-or-flight loop. It got so bad one night that I even went to the emergency room. You can read the whole story here.

By mid-September, I was in a precarious state of recovery. The panic attacks had mainly subsided, but fluctuating anxiety was still a huge problem.

To learn more about how CBD and SSRIs may interact, click here.

I had started therapy and was waiting for my SSRI to kick in—the same SSRI I had weaned myself off of six months prior. Because my doctor didn’t want to prescribe any additional medication quite yet, I thought that I could reintroduce CBD to help bridge the gap.

Before using CBD to relieve my anxiety, I consulted with my medical cannabis clinic. They agreed that CBD could help and advised me to start low and go slow—the cannabis-use mantra. They reminded me of potential side effects—headache, drowsiness, diarrhea, etc.—that could last for a few days.

I had taken as much as 50mg of CBD a day in the past. Keeping low and slow in mind, I decided to start at 20% of that dose. I ordered 10mg gel caps from my favorite provider—very credible—and waited for them to arrive.

When Using CBD Went Horribly Wrong

On average, ingested cannabis products take about 90 minutes before any effects are felt. In my case, it was around that 90-minute mark on that first day that I got a mild headache. I expected it and wasn’t too concerned. Anxiety feeds on fear and uncertainty, but I was confident in CBD given my past experience.

The next day, I took CBD again, and again, I got a headache after about 90 minutes. This time the headache was stronger and was accompanied by some anxiety. Given I was already suffering from fluctuating anxiety throughout the day, I pushed through. I woke up several times that night, my anxiety mounting.

On the third day of taking CBD for anxiety relief, I got a pounding headache and became agitated, restless, and fearful. I could feel the anxiety climbing higher and higher. I woke in the middle of the night in full fight-or-flight mode with intrusive thoughts speeding through my psyche: I’m better off dead. I can’t take it anymore. How many pills would it take to end this nightmare?

The panic was scary. But the kinds of thoughts I had were terrifying!

Given I had changed nothing else in my treatment, the only rational conclusion was that the CBD wreaked havoc on my fragile system. I ceased taking CBD after only 3 days and haven’t taken it again since.

Can CBD Provide Anxiety Relief in the Future?

Not only did cannabis help me in the past, but I enjoyed it. Having ceased drinking alcohol several years ago, along with the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, THC was fun to consume. It definitely helped with my depression.

I don’t know why my body reacted to CBD the way it did this time. Maybe it was because I had only restarted my SSRI a few weeks prior. Maybe it was because I didn’t start low and slow enough. I’m sure I’ll never know why for sure.

I incorrectly assumed that my body could handle CBD as it had in the past for the treatment of anxiety. This time, that was unfortunately not the case.

I will continue to advocate for cannabis, though, because I really do believe that it can help. As for me, I may try cannabis again in the future, just not anytime soon.

Feature image by BATCH by Wisconsin Hemp Scientific on Unsplash.

See more of my mental health posts here. For more posts on cannabis, click here.

Cannabis, Mental Health

Misleading Headlines About Cannabis – Do Your Due Diligence

I think we can all agree that controlled, scientific studies on the (medical) benefits of Cannabis are sorely lacking. With its popularity surging globally and people demanding/clambering for legalization, no doubt these studies will be forthcoming in the very near future.

Having said that, patient-based information collected through user-tracking apps like Strainprint and websites like Leafly and Lift&Co, paint a very real picture of the myriad health benefits of marijuana. The sheer volume of empirical data stating marijuana’s benefits can no longer be ignored. Controlled study or not, the people have spoken! Whether it be as a treatment to curb symptoms (e.g. pain from inflammation), or a treatment of the condition itself (e.g. reducing the inflammation), cannabis is helping numerous people.

Yesterday evening I saw an article that both angered and stupified me, entitled: Medicinal cannabis does NOT help treat depression, anxiety or ADHD, reveals a review of 83 scientific studies. That’s a pretty bold headline! The first thing I did was check who published the article; it was from a UK tabloid-style newspaper known for its lack of credibility. Still, it quoted a credible source (The Lancet Psychiatry), so I checked that too. They essentially examined studies spanning 30 years, with a ridiculously low combined subject count of between 3K-4K, on depression, anxiety, ADHD, Tourette syndrome, and PTSD. One study had as few as 10 participants! Not only did their report NOT say what the tabloid headline so recklessly stated, but it concluded the following:

There remains insufficient evidence to provide guidance on the use of cannabinoids for treating mental disorders within a regulatory framework. Further high-quality studies directly examining the effect of cannabinoids on treating mental disorders are needed.

The Lancet psychiatry: Cannabinoids for the treatment of mental disorders and symptoms of mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Regardless of the irresponsible tabloid headline, The Lancet themselves have made some astonishing proclamations stating, “We found little evidence for the effectiveness of pharmaceutical CBD or medicinal cannabis”. They found little evidence because there is little evidence to be found. There are not enough studies! I find their conclusions astoundingly irresponsible! Controlled studies based on today’s science are in their infancy. They need to seek out real-time patient-based data, then conclude. They need to do better!

See more of my posts here.

Anxiety, Cannabis, Depression, Mental Health

How to get a medical cannabis prescription in Canada (when your doctor won’t discuss it).

Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001 for serious conditions like HIV/AIDS and cancer, with less than 100 clients registered. This number grew to over 37,000 by 2013 and, according to data collected by Health Canada under the Cannabis Tracking System Ministerial Order, there were more than 360,000 client registrations by the end of June 2019.

I am one of those registered clients and, while there is more and more information available, and the process to acquire a medical marijuana prescription is getting easier, it can still be daunting and the process difficult to navigate.

My physician wanted nothing to do with prescribing medical cannabis.

If you’ve read any of my blogs you’ll know that I use medical cannabis as a (added) treatment for chronic depression and anxiety. After almost 20 years of relying solely on pharmaceuticals, with frequent bouts of acute depression (major depressive episodes) and anxiety, I broached the subject of medical marijuana with my physician. She wanted nothing to do with prescribing medical cannabis for me, nor did she direct me in any way. I tried to discuss it with her again as an alternative treatment to help combat my persistent and fluctuating symptoms, until I was eventually told that my clinic doesn’t affiliate with any cannabis clinics.

If I wanted weed for medical purposes, I was on my own.

Thus began my journey, the best bits of which I will share with you in the hopes that you can pursue and advocate for your own care using cannabis rather than wasting time with your reluctant physician.

It takes approximately 10 days to complete the medical cannabis registration process.

In order to get cannabis for medical reasons you’ll need a prescription. To get a prescription, you’ll need a medical professional to write the prescription – it does NOT have to be your current physician nor do they have to refer you. You can register directly with a licensed medical cannabis producer (LP) or with any one of the many online (I use the Lyte Clinic) and brick-and-mortar clinics that can service your needs. You may need some sort of documentation to substantiate your request for medical cannabis.

For instance, I first registered directly with a licensed medical cannabis producer who required a medical document substantiating my request for medical marijuana to help with depression and anxiety. I used a list of the medications I had been taking over the last 6 months, as provided by my pharmacist. The Lyte Clinic didn’t require any medical documentation.

With both of these registration scenarios, they will handle connecting you with a medical practitioner who will assess your needs – either by phone, video, or in-person (if available) depending on what you prefer – make a recommendation and write the prescription. Then, they register your prescription with Health Canada. When completed, they inform you and you’re basically ready to start shopping. It takes approximately 10 days from the time you register for medical cannabis to being ready to shop for products.

Where cannabis clinics provide added value.

After getting my prescription directly from the LP, I started to shop for product on their site. I quickly realized that they didn’t have everything I wanted. The current state of LPs is such that they don’t all produce everything. How could they? For example, Canna Farms has a broad variety of dried weed (flower) while Spectrum Therapeutics has a good selection of gelcaps. What I didn’t realize was that I could “split” my prescription between LPs. That is to say, I have one prescription from Health Canada’s perspective, but it is “split” so I can shop from multiple producers within my prescription limit .

This is where the clinic came into play. Though I was registered with one LP, I decided to also register with a clinic. While I don’t know if all clinics do this, the Lyte Clinic provided me with the (recommended) option of working with a cannabis educator (through either video or audio chat) – which was invaluable to me. I requested a 50+ year-old (menopausal) female who had experience with mental illness. Not only could the woman they assigned me completely relate to my issues, but she was able to advise me on what LPs I could use to achieve my objectives. By the end of our conversation, I split my prescription between 4 LPs and Lyte handled all the details – including informing Health Canada. I waited for notification that the “paperwork” was done and I was ready to shop.

Cannabis prescription basics.

  • Your first prescription will likely be valid for only 3-4 month.
  • Your clinic and/or LP will notify you when your prescription renewal is due.
    • You may/may not have to provide medical substantiation again.
  • Your renewal(s) will likely be valid for a longer periods of time, e.g. 6 months then 12 months.

I truly hope this information has been beneficial to you. I’ve included some links below that you might also find useful.

Lyte Clinic

See more of my posts here.